Pelicans shootaround update presented by HUB International: Pacers present defensive challenge

by Jim Eichenhofer

INDIANAPOLIS – From their sixth-ranked three-point shooting (38.9 percent), to their fifth-rated offensive efficiency (108.1 points per 100 possessions), to their top-10 pace of play, the Indiana Pacers represent an array of concerns for any defense. Those areas are among the challenges New Orleans will encounter Tuesday (6 p.m. Central), when the Pelicans (5-5) make their lone visit of the regular season to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where Indiana (5-5) is averaging 108.5 points per game while going 3-1.

“I think it will be a good test for us,” said Pelicans forward Darius Miller, who was instrumental in New Orleans' back-to-back wins at Dallas and Chicago on the weekend. “We’re going to come out focused and try to limit their transition points and build on what we’ve got going.”

Indiana has five players shooting at or near 40 percent from the three-point line, though one of those – rookie forward T.J. Leaf – is questionable for Tuesday’s game. Pacers backup guard Cory Joseph leads that quintet with a scorching-hot 60.9 percent rate from the arc (14 of 23), while Victor Oladipo is next at 44.6 percent (25 of 56).

“We’ve got to try to run their shooters off the line and make them uncomfortable,” Miller said. “I think we do a good job of having high intensity on defense. We’ve just got to keep it up.”

Other notes from Tuesday shootaround:

Indiana was oft-criticized this summer for what was perceived to be a one-sided trade of Paul George to Oklahoma City in exchange for Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, but Oladipo enters Tuesday as the NBA’s 12th-leading scorer (23.8 points per game). The Indiana University product is ahead of household names such as Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kyrie Irving and Karl-Anthony Towns on that list.

Pelicans guard E’Twaun Moore was a teammate of Oladipo in Orlando and says the shooting guard always demonstrated the upside to be a force in the league.

“He’s a talented guy, an explosive athlete, and now I see he’s making a lot of (outside) shots,” Moore said. “He’s definitely a tough cover. He’s got a lot of confidence. We’ve got to hopefully try to slow him down tonight.

“He always had a good motor. He was always athletic. I knew he could turn that into being a good player.”

“In my opinion, he’s always been a great player,” Miller said of Oladipo, who is now on his third different NBA team. “This year he just has a bigger role and is doing a great job of taking advantage of it.” …

Although New Orleans won both games, the Pelicans slumped greatly from three-point range in Dallas and Chicago. They now rank No. 26 in the league in percentage from deep (32.2), ahead of only Chicago, New York, the Lakers and Toronto.

“One thing is, we have to make some shots,” Moore said when asked what needs to improve most offensively for the Pelicans. “We’ve had a lot of open ones. I feel like they’re start going down. It’s about keeping confidence.” ...

Sabonis, who has played very well early in 2017-18 with his new team and is shooting 62.8 percent from the field, joins Leaf on the list of Indiana players who won't suit up Tuesday.